floor burnishing

Burnishing Floor Finish A Quick Guide

Floor Burnishing

The best way to maintain floor finish shine is high-speed burnishing. Floor burnishing is done with a rotary machine that has a pad turning speed of more than 1000 rpm but more commonly done at 1500 to 2000 rpm. Burnishing floor finish is helpful for two reasons.

First it makes floor finish shine but more important, it makes the floor easier to keep clean. This is because it smooths out the scratches in the floor, removing areas for dirt to settle. Once dirt gets is in the scratches, it is difficult for regular cleaning to remove and with foot traffic will continue to further scratch the floor. This will damage the floor finish shine.

Floor Burnishing Pads

There are many types of pads that can be used for floor burnishing but some of the more common ones are a light tan in color and or have natural fibers incorporated in to the weave of the pads material. These natural fibers are usually hog or horse hair and add more abrasion to the process to aggressively smooth out the floor.

Tan or even white pads can also be used but are typically less aggressive and work more with the thermal properties of floor finish. This means they use friction to heat up the floor finish which melts back smooth.

Regardless of color, make sure you check the manufactures guidelines before using any burnishing pad.

Rules of Floor Burnishing

It is important to know a few universal rules before attempting to burnish floor finish.

  1. Always Clean The Floor First. With the thermal action that occurs with burnishing, any soils on the floor will be melted into the finish. The only way to remove burnished in soil is to scrub the finish, grinding off finish until it the contaminated layers are gone.
  2. Always dust mop prior to burnishing floor finish. This removes any large particles that can become trapped in the pad and damage the finish or even the floor. Also objects such as rocks, pencils and even hard candy can become a dangerous projectile when flung from the high speeds of a floor burnisher.
  3. Keep moving. Unlike buffing floors with a low-speed machine, burnishers need to keep moving. Holding the burnisher is one spot will literally burn the floor. There is no reason to do anything but walk at a regular pace when using a burnisher to polish floors. Moving in a simple back and forth motion similar to cutting grass will give you even and effective results.
  4. Change your pad often. Floor burnishing with a clean pad is essential to floor polishing success. When too much dirt accumulates on the pad, it begins to be melted into the floor. It is always a good idea to inspect the pad often. This is to assure there hasn’t been any debris picked up and held in the pad.
  5. Dust Mop After Burnishing. During the process, microscopic floor finish dust particles are sanded away. These will become airborne and can be inhaled. Even if your burnisher has a dust control system, it is always a good idea to vacuum or dust mop after burnishing to prevent dust from being spread throughout the facility.

Types Of Floor Burnishers

There are 3 main types of floor burnishers. Each one has its place and setting. They all can have options such as pad pressure settings, dust control, adjustable handles as well as many others depending on make and model. The equipment you use has a big impact on your results of floor burnishing.

The important thing to remember is that the only purpose of a burnisher is to smooth out scratches in floor finish. They are not intended to clean or scrub floors.

The Three Common Types of Floor Burnishers

  1. Cord Electric Burnishers. These are powered by an electrical cord plugged into the wall. They are good for relativity small areas. With Burnishing Cord Burnisherthe amount of power it takes to spin the motor and pad, there are limitations to the length of cord that can be use depending on the electrical system being used, usually 50′ or less. This can become time-consuming and restrictive when outlets are not readily available.  Some units have a variable down pressure while others have a wheel mounted on the front to provide more consistency. Cord electric burnishers also can be either direct drive or belt driven. Direct drive is where the motor is mounted directly above the pad driver. With belt driven models  the motor is offset and connected to the pad driver with a pulley system. There can be some power and torque lost from the belt stretching. Choosing the right style of cord electric burnisher for your application depends on traffic, finish type and frequency.

  2. Battery Burnishers. Commonly 1500 to 2000 rpm +, battery burnishers are good choice when noise volume is a concern or if there is not a Battery Floor Burnishersufficient power supply for cord electric. They are very efficient and are easily operated. As with any battery-powered machine, they are limited to the run time and size of the batteries. The weight of the machine is supported by frame mounted wheels so the pad pressure is independent of the over all weight. Battery floor burnishers are also a great option when noise needs to be kept to a minimum while still cover a large area. While they still make noise, battery burnishers are much more quiet than a propane burnisher and often have effective dust control options.

  3. Propane Burnishers. The most powerful of all burnishers, propane burnishers use an engine fueled by propane gas to spin a Burnishing propane bunisherdirect drive pad driver at speeds 2000 rpm and greater. There are many advantages to these types of burnishers, the biggest one being the amount of area that can be covered. Since there is not limitations from cords or battery time, they can keep on going until the job is finished. Modern units have emission controls, safety tanks and a clutch to make them much safer than their early predecessors. One of the biggest drawbacks is their noise. Although there have been great strides made in noise deadening, the fact is they are still basically running a propane powered lawn mower engine. When brought into a building, the noise prohibits use when there are other activities going on. That being said, the time they save combined with the results they produce, the use of a propane burnisher can usually be justified.

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10 replies
  1. Steven Tomershea
    Steven Tomershea says:

    Hello thank you for you time.
    I’m working with a mercury floormachine
    Model DC 2000
    Ultra High-speed Burnisher…

    Problem ….
    Using a standard white polishing pad only the outer 2 inches of the pad is being utilized….There for the angel of the deck is to extreme for the pad….Even with the front wheel assembly all the way up or down

    1.Is there a special pad for this machine we do not know about ? If so send me a catalog
    2.Are the 6 inch operating wheels the correct ones for this model….4 inch might fix the problem ???
    3.Is the main function of the DC 2000 to just burnish and not polish???

    I understand that there are different pads for floors…The floors I am working on are High traffic , Hospital floors in a prison setting…So any help you can offer will be appreciated…

    I would still like to know why only the leading edge of the pad hits the floor…I tried all 3 machines and the same..In my oppinion they are worthless as they are… I was thinking that smaller wheels would lower the back of the machine to have better pad coverage..To do a better job…Just thinking..

    Note ; We have 3 of these that are new and of no use if I cant figure this out…

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Steven. Thank you for your question. Some high speed burnishers only use the front edge of the pad. This is how they are designed to perform. They do not use special pads but I would recommend trying a different burnishing pad. I would use the size wheels that the manufacturer specified. Otherwise, you may cause damage to the floor or the machine. Too much surface contact can cause the motor to overheat. Yes, the main function of that machine is to burnish the floor. Polishing is typically done below 500 rpm. That machine operates at 2000rpm.

      Hope that helps!

    • Joe
      Joe says:

      Put some weight on your wheel and it will push down evenly. The pads will never 100% contact the floor surface. When you use the rider it definitely makes uniform contact with the surface. Proof is in the pads. When spent the entire pad is worn in appearance.

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Randy. Thank you for your question. I am going to assume that the marks you are talking about are dark areas that look kind of burnt. This is caused by a high spot in the floor. When the burnisher goes over it, it gets the brunt of the force from the pad, and wears down the finish more quickly. What I usually do to solve this problem is to simply avoid those areas when burnishing. You won’t see that big of a difference in the shine and it won’t stand out nearly as much a a dark spot.

  2. Charla
    Charla says:

    We are currently looking for a burnisher. Torn between battery and propane powered. Currently have 3 propane burnishers. They work very well. Just acquired a bigger contract. No one in the store when burnishing. Any advice?

    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Hi Charla. That is a great question. I would say that as long as there are no restrictions on using propane and you are comfortable with them, use the propane. You will not get a better result from battery burnishers. The main reasons people go with battery is for the noise or the facility does not allow the use of propane equipment.

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